BOSTON – Major League Baseball is trying to speed up games as well as create more action in the later innings. But Twins manager Paul Molitor isn’t a fan of one option the league has looked at.
While appearing on ESPN this week, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred reacted positively when a fan suggested reducing the number of relief pitchers used in an inning or game.
“I am in favor of something like that,” Manfred said. “We’ve spent a ton of time on this issue in the last few months.”
Manfred went on to explain that pitching changes take time and their ability to protect leads creates less action over the final innings. Manfred said he believes reducing the use of relievers will combat that — although more action, in theory, could add time to games.
“Kind of an odd avenue to go down,” Molitor said. “Maybe you should limit pinch-hitting appearances off the bench in an inning or something. I don’t know if I would understand the logic of it.”
As of Thursday, the average time of games was 3 hours, 4 minutes this year. It was 3:00 in 2015. And Major League Baseball is nervous about games being longer than three hours. It believes setting time limits on when innings start has helped, and that batters are doing a better job of staying in the batter’s box between pitches.
So officials are looking at other ways to keep games played at a reasonable pace.
“I hadn’t heard about it,” Molitor said, “but [the idea] seems a little funny to me, off the top of my head.”
Thursday, David Ortiz was in the middle of his pregame sprint work — well, something a little below a sprint — when he saw the Twins’ Kennys Vargas on the other side of the field.
Within moments, the two met in center field and spoke for a few minutes. Ortiz saw Vargas three years ago during a minor league game and thought he was looking at himself at the plate, form-wise. The two eventually met and became friends.
“It’s great,” Vargas said. “It’s Ortiz being more than my mentor. It’s like Ortiz being my friend. He’s very special.”
The two have kept in touch throughout this season, with Ortiz trying to keep Vargas’ spirits up while he was at Class AAA Rochester. “He said the only thing I can control is how hard I work,” Vargas said.
They are friends, but Ortiz takes his status as the wise old man seriously, hoping his wisdom rubs off on Vargas and other players as they try to succeed in the majors.
“All those kids, I try let them know what I know,” Ortiz said. “That’s the only way to get the game to get better.”
• Nike has sent many of its clients a special pair of cleats to wear Sunday in honor of Ken Griffey Jr. entering the Hall of Fame. One of their clients is Joe Mauer, and he showed off the shoes Friday. They are white with gold trim, an outline of Griffey in his follow-through on one side and his number 24 on the other. Mauer said he knows Griffey from Nike functions.
• Catcher Kurt Suzuki was not in the starting lineup Friday, but he’s healthy. Molitor knew he was going to sit Suzuki out of at least one of the four games of this series. Suzuki will start on Saturday against Red Sox lefthander David Price, then a decision will be made about him playing Sunday, but Suzuki’s .284 batting average will have a lot of say in the decision.